Crazy For Duck Bands
By PJ Maguire
Every year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service and agencies ran by the states, place leg bands on a variety of birds across the country. Migratory birds, like ducks, geese, and most recently doves are some of the most commonly banded birds. Harvesting a bird sporting a leg band is a special joy for waterfowl hunters.
After harvesting a banded bird, many waterfowl hunters place the band on their call lanyards. “It’s like earning a buckeye sticker and putting it on your football helmet. It’s a badge of honor.” Explained Lyle Sinner, an avid waterfowl hunter and Fargo, ND native.Traditionally one must harvest a lot of ducks and geese before shooting a banded bird. Therefore, it is assumed that if a waterfowl hunter has a lot of bands, he or she has shot a lot of birds. But most of the guys with lanyards full of bands on television will probably tell you they hunted them near banding sites. Some inside information will definately up your odds. Some people can hunt their entire life and never shoot a bird that is banded. Other waterfowl hunters have harvested dozens of banded birds. It all depends on where you hunt and how many birds get banded in your area. However, you could potentially shoot a banded bird anytime, in any location.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service uses data reported from leg bands to track the flight paths of migratory birds. Bands are also useful in determining harvest information and life span of specific bird species. A few years ago I witnessed my buddy take a banded drake mallard that turned out to be 12 years old. The mallard was banded in North Dakota about 50 miles from where it was shot. Some of the same ducks from the area have been reported in most U.S. states and even countries as far away as Russia.
Each band has a unique number that identifies the species of bird which is tied to the life history. When you call in a band number, an operator will ask you a few simple questions like the date and location of where the bird was harvested. You will receive a certificate in the mail containing your name and information on the banded bird.
Along with regular bands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service puts ‘reward bands’ on some birds. Usually they put these leg bands on adult birds. Reward bands are typically worth any where from 25 to 100 dollars. The government sends you a check only after you report the information regarding the band. Getting paid to hunt, that would be a nice bonus for anyone.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service are not the only ones that band birds. Some hunt clubs put leg bands on birds they release. Pheasants Forever, an organization for the preservation of pheasants, sometimes bands pheasants that they release.
One of the rarer forms of waterfowl bands are Jack Miner bands. These bands, banded by the Miner family in Ontario, have unique bible verses engraved into the band. Jack Miner bands are sacred to most waterfowl hunters, and sadly to some they just have a price tag for Ebay.
Nicknames for leg bands are a common place among my friends. They are often referred to as: jewelry, bling-bling, shine, hardware or leg irons. We refer to hunters who shoot a lot of banded birds as having “the force.”
Roughly 3.1 million leg bands have been reported to date. That is pretty small considering that since 1904 about 58 million birds have been banded in North America. Both of these numbers represent hundreds of different species of birds.
Across the nation hunters shoot banded birds every year, in just about every location. They make the hunt just a little bit more memorable and leave the hunter with a little souvenir. The first thing I do when I retrieve a harvested bird is check for a band. I encourage you to do the same. Band information should be reported to 1-800-327-BAND.